By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY — A ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court on Saturday will allow the House of Representatives’ impeachment proceedings against Gov. Robert Bentley to continue next week. The ruling comes a day after another judge delayed the proceedings.
The ALSC issued a stay on the temporary restraining order issued on Friday by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin. The stay essentially overrides Griffin’s restraining order, which was set to delay impeachment hearings for ten days to give Bentley’s lawyers time to respond to the bombshell report released yesterday by the House’s special counsel.
The Supreme Court’s ruling will essentially allow the House’s proceedings to continue as previously scheduled if they choose to. The schedule called for impeachment hearings to begin Monday in the House Judiciary Committee with a presentation by House Special Counsel Jack Sharman, the author of the 130-page report documenting Bentley’s affair and potentially impeachable offenses.
The order by the Supreme Court also directs lawyers for the Judiciary Committee and for the Governor to file written briefs with the court by Monday morning.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said Saturday after the ruling that the House will move forward on Monday as originally planned.
“This is a great day for the Constitution of Alabama,” Jones said. “I want to thank the members of the Alabama Supreme Court for quickly acting on our appeal and recognizing, what a circuit court judge didn’t understand, that there are three branches of government and the Alabama Legislature is free to conduct its business as prescribed in the state constitution.”
Ross Garber, an attorney for the Governor, said Saturday that they are disappointed that the committee will “plow forward.”
“Given the significance of the issues it is certainly appropriate that the Supreme Court hear this matter quickly,” Garber said. “We will be prepared to file our brief as directed on Monday afternoon. It’s disappointing to hear the Committee will plow forward while the Supreme Court is considering the case. We have no idea what the Committee has planned for Monday or who its witnesses will be.”
Lawyers began meeting in the Montgomery County Circuit Court early Friday morning. Attorneys for Bentley, Ross Garber and David Byrne, argued against the release of Sharman’s investigative report and called on the judge to delay the impeachment process.
They believed the Governor had not been given enough time to prepare a defense.
Less than an hour after the report was made public, Judge Griffin ordered his temporary restraining order.
Sharman’s report yesterday drew a major conclusion: Bentley used the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to advance his personal interests.
“[Bentley], in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia, subjected career law enforcement officers to tasks intended to protect his reputation,” the report reads.
Sharman also found the Bentley intimidated staff members in the executive branch and sent law enforcement officials on escapades to track down a salacious recording of him and Mason.